ben watt

Review: 30 Years Later Ben Watt Hasn’t Lost His Finesse On New ‘Hendra’ LP

It’s been over 30 years since Ben Watt released a solo album, North Marine Drive. In that time, he has had a more varied career than most of his contemporaries. As half of alt-folk darlings turned dance pop superstars Everything But the Girl with wife Tracey Thorn, Watt elevated electronica to a fresh level of mainstream viability with songs like “Missing” and “Wrong” long before anyone dreamed up “EDM.” Further immersing himself in beats, Watt became a DJ, producer, remixer, and promoter, ultimately launching his own party Lazy Dog, and record label, Buzzin’ Fly – check his classic take on Sade’s “By Your Side” or his collaboration with Estelle on “Pop a Cap in Yo Ass” for primers on his template-setting deep house touch. Like Tracey, Ben is also an author and has written two well-received memoirs. On a heavier note, he has also dealt with an autoimmune disease, the recent deaths of his father and sister, and found himself at a mid-life crossroads – “a pop musician in an electronic world.”

All of these experiences have been distilled eloquently through Watt’s imagination into not one, but two touching and personal works: his most recent memoir, Romany and Tom (about his creative parents’ complex relationship, out in June on Bloomsbury Press) and his new album, Hendra (out April 29, on Unmade Road). The concurrent release of both the book and the album provide a stereo glance into Watt’s life and creativity. Here’s a man, a husband, father, artist who has spent much of his life in the spotlight, just as his parents had aspired to in their day. The echoes of history may haunt Watt, but in his music and books, Ben has wrestled his way through the thickets with earnest and rhythmic writing that is confessional without feeling solipsistic, poignant without feeling contrived, terse without feeling emaciated, and revelatory without feeling exploitative. His ability to slip subtle twists into unexpected moments in his narratives and lyrics creates hooks that sink into and bait one’s own memories. His knack for juxtaposing details of inner and outer worlds is a case study in the tried and true axiom “make the personal universal.”

On the album, Hendra, Ben’s finesse with both dance and rock music manifests in his skillful meshing of tropes and choice of partners - electronic producer Ewan Pearson adds a crystalline digital sonic sheen, Suede’s Bernard Butler adds some analog pop muscle; and David Gilmour’s slide guitar imparts a dreamy grandeur to “The Levels”. “Nathaniel” is a swinging up-tempo ditty inspired by a post-mortem graffiti tribute he rode past in Oregon. Using sunny, ‘70s West Coast-style vocals and guitar, Watt crafts a meditation on how the tragedy of strangers becomes political theater, albeit in a manner that is blissfully more palatable than this description could ever. On “Matthew Arnold’s Field”, a keyboard and vocal driven ballad, he describes scattering his father’s ashes in a deeply symbolic environment without losing sight of other people around him, among them a couple in the thick of mundane life, having tea and eating sandwiches. The permeability between life and death is also explored on “The Gun” which tackles the controversial theme of violence without hopping on a soap box, instead highlighting the ironic horror weapons advocates experience when the karmic woods come to their gated McCastles, as it were. The title track “Hendra” has a mystical, David Crosby vibe to it. On “Young Man’s Game”, a bar room sing-along waiting to be tapped, Watt muses on aging and his place in the (music) world as he’s evolved from a multitasking boy Midas to a wizened elder – one pretty content with lot in life.

At times Hendra evokes the blue-eyed soul, pastoral folk and electronic noodling of boom bap aficionado Scritti Politti or Scottish troubadour King Creosote who also delved into electronic pop with Jon Hopkins. In other places, it invokes Neil Young, John Lennon, Santana. Through it all, however, it’s Watt’s story and he tells it his way. "Words, beats and notes - it's all we have. It's just a question of playing them in what feels like the right order at the right time, and at the moment, 'Hendra' just feels right," Watt has said. We couldn’t agree more.

Watt will be doing a short tour of the US in June. Check his site for details.
http://benwatt.com/dates

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Pinellas County Sheriff's Office via AP

Florida Gunman Convicted Of Manslaughter In Fatal Parking Lot Shooting

A Florida jury convicted a white gunman of killing an unarmed black father during an argument over a parking space. Jurors deliberated for more than six hours before finding Michael Drejka guilty of manslaughter in the July 2018 shooting death of Markeis McGlockton.

McGlockton, 28, was gunned down in front of his 5-year-old son in the parking lot of a Circle K gas station. The father of three was coming to his girlfriend’s defense after she was confronted by Drejka for parking in a handicap space while McGlockton ran into the store. Drejka, who alleged self-defense, claimed that he opened fire after McGlockton took “one step” towards him and shoved him. Drejka attempted to use Florida’s Stand Your Ground law to justify the fatal shooting, and saw no fault in his actions.

“I followed the law the way I thought the law was supposed to be followed. I cleared every hurdle that the law had to put in front of me,” he told a local news station last year.

Prosecutors argued that Drejka provoked the confrontation and video surveillance confirmed that McGlockton was backing away from Drejka. The state’s self-defense argument doesn’t apply if the shooter caused the altercation.

Drejka, who faces up to 30 years in prison, had no reaction to the verdict, CBS News reports. He remains held without bond and is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 10.

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Justin Sullivan

Beverly Hills Realtor Accused Of Robbing Homes Of Usher And More Celebrities

A Beverly Hills real estate agent and his accomplish stand accused of burglarizing the homes of Usher, Jason Derulo, Adam Lambert, reality stars former athletes and more celebrity homes by using open house events to steal their belongings, the Los Angeles County District Attorney announced Thursday (Aug. 22).

Jason Yaselli, 32, and Benjamin Ankerman, 33, have been locked up for about a week. The duo faces 32 counts of money laundering, 12 counts of first-degree residential burglary, two counts of identity theft, double counts of residential burglary with a person present, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. They are also charged with obtaining more than $500,000 through fraud and embezzlement.

Ackerman, who was arrested on Aug. 15, pleaded not guilty during his arraignment on Aug. 19. His bail has been set at $1.2 million, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 3. Yaselli, a Keller Williams Realty employee who was arrested on Aug. 16, was arraigned on Aug. 23. The prosecutor recommended a $1.73 million bail for Yaselli.

According to the criminal complaint, Yaselli was the mastermind behind the burglaries which took place between Dec. 2016 and Aug. 2018. He allegedly encouraged Ankerman to “steal luxury items from 14 homes, sell them and use the proceeds to make payments on Yaselli’s credit card.”

The case is still being investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department. If convicted, Yaselli and Ankerman face a maximum of 31 years in prison.

See more in the video below.

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Jerritt Clark

Nipsey Hussle’s Family Announces Launch Of Neighborhood Nip Foundation

Nipsey Hussle’s loved ones have started a charity organization in his honor. The late rapper, activist and entrepreneur's family recently launched the Neighborhood Nip Foundation, aimed at continuing the slain rapper’s efforts to help his community, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday (Aug. 23).

“The foundation will be aligned with everything Nip believed in and what helped him,” Hussle’s brother, Sam Asghedom, told news outlet.

To kick things off, Atlantic Records made a six-figure donation to the non-profit organization, which draws its name from Hussle’s “Neighborhood Nip” moniker. “They wanted to be the first to donate. It’s important we let people know that,” Asghedom said of the record label that released Hussle’s Victory Lap debut.

“Nipsey will be forever missed, but his courageous, generous spirit lives on in his incredible music and the impact he made on the community. Nip’s love for the generation coming up behind him is a big part of what’s inspiring this foundation, and we’re proud to celebrate his life by supporting his legacy,” Atlantic’s chairman and CEO Craig Kallman and chairman and COO Julie Greenwald said in a statement to The Times.

Although Hussle’s family are still working out the programs to be offered by the Neighborhood Nip Foundation, one of the organization’s main goals will be to help youth interested in breaking into music.

In addition to financial backing from Atlantic, Puma is also lending a helping hand. The company, which collaborated with Hussle prior to his death, will donate 100% of the proceeds from the forthcoming Puma x TMC capsule collection debuting next month.

News of the Neighborhood Nip Foundation comes a week after the family quietly celebrated what would have been Hussle’s 34th birthday.

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